NHL Penguins

Penguins closing in on the Eastern Conference Finals

Penguins celebrate game 4 victory in OT with Hornqvist's goal
Penguins celebrate game 4 victory in OT with Hornqvist’s goal

Written by The Burgh Blog writer: Austin Tocco

If you would have told me a year ago that the Penguins would go up 3-1 against the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference Semi-finals, I might have chuckled a bit, but here we are. This dream has now become a reality for this hockey club. The Pittsburgh Penguins have now taken a commanding 3-1 lead in the series against the heavily favored Washington Capitals. I am confident that the Penguins will get it done, but I still take note of the fact that it is the President’s Trophy winner and they will be bringing their all.
The Penguins have been in this situation before, going up 3-1 in a series, and completely falling apart. In 2014, the Pittsburgh Penguins were up 3-1 against the New York Rangers, and ended up losing the series in 7 games in front of the home faithful. Trust me, I was there, I would not wish that upon my worst enemy, having the other team in the palm of your hand and choking. In my opinion, this Capitals team presents the Penguins with much more skill and depth than did the New York Rangers in 2014, so the Penguins must come out firing early and take advantage of the emotional Capitals as they are on the brink of elimination and out of Stanley Cup contention, yet again.
Last night was a nail biter to say the least, a very skilled hockey game with an abnormally slow tempo. Eventually, Patric Hornqvist in overtime delivered the dagger that ended the game, allowing the Penguins to finish on top 3-2. I was extremely impressed with how our team played collectively without arguably our two top defensemen out of the lineup, Letang with a suspension, and Maatta with an injury. Carrying the workload on defense was Trevor Daley, and boy he did not disappoint. He led the Penguins on several key penalty kills and even scored a goal to tie the game in the first period.

Trevor Daley celebrating goal to tie the game in first period
Trevor Daley celebrating goal to tie the game in first period
Daley logged 28:41, leading the Penguins defense. He truly earned that time as he has been a juggernaut all year. I still do not know how Jim Rutherford pulled that trade off, I bet the Blackhawks are shaking their heads at that deal while they are on their couches watching the playoffs.
You have to tip your hat to Matt Cullen, this guy is 39 years old, and he is playing like he is 25. His experience has led the Penguins to this point, and has scored several key goals to give the Penguins the edge in this series. You cannot say he does not remind you of a familiar face in the locker room, Bill Guerin. Lastly, the best goaltender in this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs, Matt Murray. Murray stopped 34 shots on 36 attempts last night to secure yet another win in his young career. Murray continues to impress, and will hopefully get the job done Saturday in Washington, D.C.
This is it, the time is now, the Penguins cannot be passive at this point, and they should have learned this from the past. It is much better to win this game 5, and get some rest before the next series against either the New York Islanders or the Tampa Bay Lightning which will likely take 7 games. The quicker the Penguins oust the Capitals the better, but the Capitals will not go down easily. It is not easy whatsoever to win at the Verizon Center, but there would be nothing better than to quiet the home crowd by taking advantage of our momentum from game 4 and applying it to game 5. Winning that game in overtime created an uproar in the city of Pittsburgh late Wednesday night, and now, the Penguins have given the fans a reason to believe. The Penguins just have to play their game and the fans will really have a reason to scream and shout. If the Penguins can hold off the Capitals in game 5, the Penguins could have close to a week off to recover from any injury and to just relax a little before the Conference Finals. But first, they must win just one more game, one more. Pittsburgh has 3 chances to win 1 more game, and boy do I hope it is Saturday in Washington, D.C.
The Penguins will play Saturday at 7:15 EST on NBC in game 5 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals against the Washington Capitals. Hopefully we can clinch and make Alexander Ovechkin shake our hands for the second time in the Crosby, Ovechkin era. The fans have a great reason to be excited, but, there is still business to be done. See you Saturday night!

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